Are you a female reading this article, and seeking answers for the miniature-sized, non-functional pockets in your apparel? Or are you someone who often notices more than half of the mobile phones sneaking out from the pockets of females? As far as women clothing is concerned, pockets are a privilege. But why is it so? Is fashion one of the reasons or the deprivation of pockets from women’s clothing has its roots in human evolution?
The world considers women to be an enigma? Well, their clothing is a bigger enigma. No one on this planet can find the perfect women’s apparel, as the ones with the best colour may not be of the perfect size, or the one with perfect fit may not imbibe the trending design. But there is one bigger problem and that is finding pockets in women’s apparel.
Pockets in women’s apparel are very hard to find, if we can find them either they are just for show or are too small to use. When I compared the size and number of pockets with the clothing of my male counterparts, I was taken aback to see that the male pockets are so big that they can accommodate so many things altogether like keys, wallets, mobile phones and whatnot. Well, is this some sort of discrimination. If yes, today let’s dig a bit deeper and trace the origin of this discrimination.
The History of Pockets
The omission of pockets in women’s clothes did not happen by chance, and possesses a history to trace.
Before 17th century, there was a common practice of carrying pouches that were slung from a rope, which helped both the men and women to carry essentials. Clothes at that time had little slits through which these pouches were made easily accessible. So for both men and women, the system of carrying pouches was almost the same.
During the 17th century, the idea of sewing pouches right into the clothes gained popularity. The reason cited for this was ‘keeping the items being carried close to the body’. Hence, pockets were born.
The Pocket-Revolution struck down by Patriarchy
The sewing began to be done right into the linings of the coats, waistcoats and breeches of men. While women still had to rely on separate ‘pouches’ that sat underneath their petticoats. According to Victoria & Albert Museum, the fashion in 17th century was to wear two layers of petticoat, and the pouches i.e. pocket was tied around the waist of women, in between the two layers. The women had ‘pockets’ and used them for carrying things, but could not take out anything from them in public places. This is how the genesis of pockets gave birth to inequality.
Historians advocate that pockets gradually disappeared from the women clothing as it was believed that their husbands would carry all their money and necessities. After all, women were meant to just sit at home, doing house chores, preparing meals for the family.
By the end of 17th century only, more body-hugging dresses came in fashion. And the demon of body-fit dresses has not left the female community even today. The women shift to reticules, that is known as sling bags in the 21st century Gen-Z language.
Pockets ruin Fashion
With the arrival of body-hugging dresses, women started opting for small decorative bags, called reticules, that could merely fit a hanky and a few coins. The sexist world thought that women don’t need functional pockets as they don’t have any access to property or money.
As women began going out and started working, the need for pockets grew exponentially. Women started demanding pockets, and finally in the 20th century the rebellion bore some fruits and pockets began to be sewed in skirts and dresses among others.
As more women started working in the field, the era of pants began. Companies began to design pants for women, that too with pockets. And the women community around the globe slowly started shifting towards practical clothing, with trousers and pants comprising pockets.
But this did not meet the long-standing demand of functional pockets. Here, fashion came into play, the clothing got slimmer and slowly the big sized pockets were reduced to small, just for show, non-functional pockets.
The economic angle: Cost-cutting and sale of purses
According to a study by ‘The Pudding’ reveals that pockets in women’s jeans are 48% shorter and 6.5% narrower than men’s pockets. The study was conducted on around 80 pair of jeans, and was found that men had pockets of 9.1 inch length whereas women had pockets with 5.6 inches length.
The industry insiders believe that one of the biggest motives to behind this discrimination is to save money. By keeping the size of pockets small saves a lot of money.
Also, one of the major reason of small pockets can be accounted for the increased dependency of women on handbags. The companies into fashion industry believe that if women will be provided with pockets the entire gender will be waived off its dependency on handbags and purses, ultimately causing loss to the company.
The pocket- revolution has connection with the Indian subcontinent also. While the revolution was going on in the West, it was parallely impacting the Indian civilisation also. The West had a crucial impact on the East and South India. The Mughal culture was on a hype and from there arrived the concept of carrying ‘Batua’ and ‘Potli’.
Christian Dior once said, “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration,” and till today this stands true as the fight for bigger pockets still continues.